Resolution urges creation of flood mitigation plan for Puna

A Puna councilman hopes to begin a long-delayed project to reduce the chance of floods throughout Puna.

The County Council’s Committee on Governmental Relations and Economic Development will hear today a resolution urging Mayor Harry Kim and the Department of Public Works to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to mitigate floodwaters in Puna.

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Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, who introduced the nonbinding resolution, said the district’s propensity for flooding is well-known: A draft flood study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2006 highlighted very clear floodplains from Volcano to the ocean.

However, nothing was done about the issue, he said, because acting on the study would increase flood insurance rates for much of lower Puna, whose many lower-income residents would be unable to afford the hike.

Currently, paying for floodwater mitigation is the responsibility of individual subdivisions, Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said, which is a less-than-ideal solution. A subdivision will simply work to divert floodwaters into neighboring vacant land, where it will continue through the floodplain to a different subdivision.

Instead, Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said he hopes the county will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a holistic solution that can tackle the floodwater problem throughout the floodplain.

“It’s gonna be a long process,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “I know it probably can’t be finished during my term, but I want to get this started finally.”

The councilman said he has contacted the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Public Works regarding the project, and both seem amenable to working together. The two departments already are working together on a project to repair the Waiakea Stream flood channel after damage caused by Hurricane Lane.

Because the floodplain project is only in its infancy, Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder says he expects the proposal will bet met with broad support.

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“This resolution is only urging them to work together,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “I’m sure, when we’re further along, there’s going to be funding concerns, but right now all we want is to figure out what we have to do and how to do it.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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